Arianespace has opened its 2016 launch campaign with the lofting of the Intelsat 29e satellite on Wednesday. In a rare single passenger launch, the Ariane 5 was tasked with launching the huge Boeing-built bird, with lift-off on schedule at 23:20 UTC from the European Spaceport in Kourou on Tuesday.
Ariane 5 Launch:
The Ariane 5 ECA (Cryogenic Evolution type A) – the most powerful version in the Ariane 5 range of rockets – was employed once again for this flight, a vehicle that is an improved version of the generic Ariane 5 launcher.
Those improvements relate mainly to the structure of the Ariane 5, allowing for an increased thrust and ability to carry heavier payloads into orbit.
Designed to place payloads weighing up to 9.6 tonnes into GTO, this increased capacity allows the Ariane 5 ECA to handle dual launches of very large satellites. However, for this launch, due to the size of the passenger – and the urgency of the customer’s requirements – Intelsat 29e was the only payload to be lofted on Wednesday.
Arianespace now enjoys a full family of launch vehicles.
With the introduction of Soyuz at the Spaceport in 2011, Arianespace’s family was joined by the lightweight Vega vehicle, following her successful debut in 2012.
Arianespace will also be at the center of a new launch vehicle, the Ariane 6, which has been approved by the ESA members.
This latest mission was designated Flight VA228 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system and was the 228th Ariane mission since this series of vehicles entered operation in 1979.
Intelsat 29e is the first of the Intelsat EpicNG high throughput satellites.
The spacecraft’s relay platform will have one of the most advanced digital payloads commercially available, delivering enterprise-grade, broadband services to fixed and mobile network operators, aero and maritime mobility service providers, and government customers operating throughout the Americas.
That relay platform is based on the Boeing 702MP spacecraft design, with the satellite boasting a liftoff mass of just over 6,550 kg. It is the 51st Boeing-built satellite to be launched by Arianespace.
It will provide high-throughput Ku-band spot beams over the Americas to meet broadband demand for carrier-grade telecommunications and enterprise connectivity, as well as Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean coverage for highly-used aviation and shipping routes.
A transatlantic Ku-band wide beam overlay provides efficient broadcast capabilities for in-flight entertainment aboard aircraft, while the C-band beam is to deliver full South American continent coverage for media distribution.
Thanks to the performance of this single passenger mission, Ariane 5 will move from the standard 35,786km x 250km x 6 deg GTO profile to reduce the inclination. As such this mission will be to 35,546km x 248.8km x 0.5deg destination.
It took around 30 minutes from launch to achieve the required parameters for spacecraft separation.
This was the 56th Intelsat spacecraft to be orbited by Arianespace. More will follow, with Intelsat 33e also to be launched by Arianespace later in 2016. The first satellite to ride on an Arianespace rocket was Intelsat 507 in 1983.
Intelsat expects to launch its second Intelsat EpicNG satellite, Intelsat 33e, in the third quarter of 2016, also using Arianespace launch services. Intelsat 33e will serve Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
This liftoff was the first of up to 11 missions planned with Arianespace’s launcher family during the coming 12 months, with as many as eight utilizing the workhorse Ariane 5.
(Images via Arianespace and Boeing).